How to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace

If you are wondering how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, you’re not alone. DE&I efforts are gaining momentum in all facets of society. And as a result, companies seek ways to broaden their DE&I efforts by focusing on values, policies, and practices that ensure all employees feel valued.

Research shows that one of the qualities of a great workplace includes a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It boosts employee trust and commitment, directly impacting recruitment and retention efforts. Top Workplaces also prioritize their DE&I efforts to champion a people-centered culture. Organizations that promote DE&I efforts also drive innovation and gain a competitive edge.

What are workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Most organizations recognize the value of a diverse workforce rich in social and ethnic backgrounds, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religious beliefs. But none of that is beneficial if individuals do not feel included or valued.

Inclusion ensures that all employees are included, supported, and valued. It requires companies to look critically at how opportunities and resources are utilized, adopt an impartial work ethic, and be aware when employees need support.

While your organization may understand the value of DE&I, it requires more than the occasional HR meeting. Assumptions can keep your organization in the dark when it comes to effectively promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Here are three common assumptions companies make in their DE&I efforts:

Assumption: The company hosts a regular cadence of programs focused on DE&I topics to show they care about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

  • Problem: While regular meetings are an excellent first step, focusing on attendance numbers and filling a calendar won’t change behavior.
  • Solution: Think outside the box to find ways that encourage change. Consider ideas such as mentorship programs and sponsorships.

Assumption: Your organization intentionally seeks women for leadership roles.

  • Problem: Considering only women for leadership roles is an exclusive approach.
  • Solution: Ensure other groups are included for a more inclusive talent search.

Assumption: Your organization has fair policies and procedures.

  • Problem: Leadership fails to consider how company policies may impact DE&I efforts and neglect employee needs.
  • Solution: Establish a team to examine company procedures and policies to ensure proper support of DE&I efforts.

Benefits of diversity in the workplace

When you have a diverse workforce, you also gain the advantage of diverse perspectives and viewpoints. It can be beneficial to driving your organization toward better products and services – and ultimately, better business outcomes.

Some additional benefits of diversity in the workplace include:

  • Higher revenue and better customer service. When employees believe they play an essential role and are valued, they are more invested and productive in their work.
  • Innovative breakthroughs. Different perspectives challenge and companies in unexpected and beneficial ways.
  • More effective recruitment efforts and the ability to attract top talent. Companies that focus on diversity efforts offer individuals the opportunity to thrive and grow, regardless of their background. It also helps companies to stand out in a crowded market and get the attention of prospective talent.
  • Higher levels of employee engagement. Diversity in the workplace improves employee engagement. Individuals who feel valued and included are more to give their best effort and refer others to the company.
  • Increased employee retention. Employees are more likely to be loyal and committed to a company that makes them feel genuinely included and supported.

Keep in mind that encouraging a diverse workplace is just a start. With this in place, inclusivity is the next step. 

Six best practices to advance diversity and inclusion

There are many different ways to cultivate and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Best practices such as open-mindedness, recognizing bias, adopting change, and encouraging honest communication support these diversity and inclusion efforts:

Consider the gap between diversity and inclusion

When improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, particular attention needs to be drawn to the gap between the two concepts. While an organization may be diverse, it might not be inclusive. These assumptions illustrate the gap between diversity and inclusion:

Assumption: Your organization is fostering diversity because it hires individuals from a range of religious backgrounds.

  • The gap: Muslim employees feel uncomfortable practicing daily prayers because they do not have a quiet, dedicated space to pray.

Assumption: Your company does not discriminate during the hiring process.

  • The gap: An employee who identifies as lesbian feels apprehensive about bringing her partner to a company event. She fears it will further heighten her exclusion from the team.

Assumption: Your organization ensures a fair maternity leave and always welcomes female employees back with an office party.

  • The gap: A breastfeeding mother doesn’t have an accommodating space at work to pump, so she has to spend her breaks in her car. She feels socially isolated but doesn’t feel comfortable complaining about the situation.

Inclusivity is critical to ensuring employees feel safe and comfortable being themselves in a place where they spend most of their day. It creates a sense of connection, increases employee satisfaction, and it also improves recruitment and retention.

Create a culture that embraces unique individuals

Organizations that want to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace need to foster a culture that embraces the unique qualities of individuals. This quality is valued by Top Workplaces, the employer recognition award winners. It’s especially critical in a global market where a company’s ability to innovate and stand out from the crowd hinges on its ability to embrace unique perspectives.

When companies value employees with diverse backgrounds, it shows employees that their unique qualities are assets to the team rather than something to hide. Two quick-start ways to be inclusive include:

  1. Utilizing inclusive communication methods that reach all employees through their preferred platform to increase their sense of community.
  2. Paying particular attention to non-discriminatory practices and policies that support your employees rather than exclude them.

Executive team diversity, equity, and inclusion

To demonstrate to potential customers, stakeholders, recruits, and your current employees the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workplace, start with the individuals representing your company.

How diverse is your executive team? Are all individuals considered for management positions, regardless of their background, gender, or religious beliefs?

While you may not have complete control over your c-suite, you can remind them of the critical role DE&I plays in the organization’s success. Ensuring executives communicate honestly and transparently with employees can also go a long way toward promoting diversity equity inclusion in the workplace.

Recognize or celebrate diverse religious or cultural holidays

Honor the diverse religious and cultural holidays by introducing policies that recognize and respect different practices and celebrations. A PTO policy allows employees to observe holidays important to their culture or faith. Keep office holiday parties nondenominational to accommodate a diverse range of beliefs.

Offering floating holidays and making office celebrations more welcoming to all employees can help employees feel more included in company gatherings and lead to a greater sense of connectedness and satisfaction in the workplace. When employees feel like they are part of a team and are comfortable in the company culture, they are more committed to their role and more likely to stay with the company.

Educate team about bias

Bias, whether intentional or not, can lead to unfair policies and practices. It can also create dissension among employees, corrode a healthy workplace culture, and hinder business outcomes. Every organization wants its employees to stand behind the organization’s mission and work as a team. Training employees and leaders alike to identify and avoid bias in their daily interactions can help foster a more inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued.

Addressing bias and being aware of its negative impact helps ensure learning and growth within your organization. It also shows prospective talent they have the opportunity to thrive as well. Using an employee engagement survey such as the Workplace Survey – the same one that identifies Top Workplaces – is one way to capture feedback and identify bias.

Here are several strategies to eliminate bias in the workplace:

  • Implement DE&I initiatives to set the tone for company expectations and promote a more diverse, equal, and inclusive culture.
  • Ensure leadership fosters diverse perspectives and viewpoints with open communication and an open-door policy.
  • Review policies and practices that impact diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Conduct regular employee engagement surveys to gain perspective on potential biases that need to be addressed.
  • Use an independent focus group to evaluate concerns and progress of DE&I efforts.
  • Offer regular training and educational opportunities to discuss what bias looks like, changes in behavior required, and ways to avoid unconscious and conscious biased interactions in the workplace.
  • Never stop asking questions: What are diversity and inclusion? How to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace? What does DE&I look like in your organization?

Use surveys to capture valuable employee feedback

One of the best ways to improve diversity and inclusion is to start by capturing employee feedback. Understanding how your employees feel about diversity, equity, and inclusion provides invaluable data which can help to reshape workplace policies, values, and behavior. It can also help you monitor the success of new policies and implement changes to stay on track.

To get the most out of your surveys, be sure to segment data according to various factors, such as gender, ethnicity, geography, and more. With this information in hand, it’s easier to spot specific concerns within groups that are more likely to feel exclusion or experience bias.


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